Koutsoftas, A. D., & Gray, S. (2012). Comparison of narrative and expository writing in students with and without language-learning disabilities . Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools , 43 (4), 395–409. https://doi.org/10.1044/0161-1461(2012/11-0018)

Journal Article

Koutsoftas, A. D., & Gray, S. (2012). Comparison of narrative and expository writing in students with and without language-learning disabilities. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 43(4), 395–409. https://doi.org/10.1044/0161-1461(2012/11-0018)


Elementary; Intelligence test; No disability; Speech/Language disability; U.S. context; Writing





This study sought to discover patterns in results when comparing writing evaluation results of students with language learning disabilities and students without disabilities. The purpose of examining scoring approaches was to inform decision-making for instruction and assessment.


A total of 56 grade 4 and grade 5 students in Arizona (U.S.) participated. Of those, 26 were students with language learning disabilities (LLD), and 30 were students without disabilities. Additional demographic data were reported for the participants.

Dependent Variable

The writing tasks included 1 expository sample and 1 narrative sample. They were evaluated using two different approaches, analytic and holistic. The analytic approach, typically employed by speech language pathologists, used elements such as accuracy, complexity, grammaticality, and productivity. The holistic approach, typically used on high-stakes assessments, included metrics of content and ideas, conventions, organization, sentence fluency, voice, and word choice. The writing time for both types of samples was also measured. The Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals—Fourth Edition (CELF-4) served as a screener for participant selection, and the students without disabilities demonstrated that they had significantly higher core language skills than those of students with LLD. Participants also completed a handwriting screening measure.


When comparing group mean scores of students with disabilities and students without disabilities analytically, the former scored significantly lower for many elements on narrative writing, but did so for fewer elements on expository writing. Specifically, both groups scored similarly on productivity and clausal density, which researchers attributed to the complexity of the writing prompts. In other words, the wording of the instructions or questions supported students with LLD in performing a skill better. For both writing tasks, students with LLD exhibited the same significantly lower scores in grammar and spelling than students without disabilities, fitting their difficulties with morphological, phonological, and syntactic language skills. When comparing participant groups holistically, the students with LLD scored significantly lower than the students without disabilities on all six traits. This was expected, as the combination of skill measures effectively blended the individual skill strengths and weaknesses, resulting in a lower overall score. In narrative writing, when examining analytic and holistic scoring for relationships, in narrative writing, there were several correlations between elements and traits. For instance, productivity in terms of total number of words as measured by the analytic approach was positively correlated with four holistic traits—content and ideas, fluency, organization, and voice—which indicated that more complex task expectations might support higher trait scores. For expository writing, correlations between analytic and holistic scores were limited to one relationship: spelling errors were negatively related to the conventions trait. Limitations of the study were reported, and future research possibilities were suggested.